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Race data in the 2000 Census

Fact Sheet Highlights

  • Race data in the 2000 census is not directly comparable to race data from previous censuses.
  • In the 2000 census, for the first time, people could identify with multiple races.
  • Data on the Hmong and Somali populations in Minnesota will not be available until mid-2001 or until 2002.
  • Hispanic or Latino is considered an ethnic rather than a racial classification.

Races in the 2000 census

Race data in the 2000 census is different from race data collected in 1990 and other previous censuses. Federal guidelines for collecting racial and ethnic information are set by the Office of Management and Budget, and census changes reflect the revised OMB standards published in 1997. The biggest change is that in the 2000 census, people could identify with more than one race. In earlier censuses, people could be only one race.

Six racial categories were used in the 2000 census. As noted, people could check one or more answers:

  • White
  • Black, African American Or Negro
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian, including Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and other Asian
  • Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan and other Pacific Islander
  • Some other race

1990 and 2000 data are not comparable

Though tests conducted before the 2000 census showed that few people selected a multiracial identity, the change still means that 1990 and 2000 race data cannot be directly compared. We do not know how the people who picked more than one race in 2000 would have identified themselves in 1990, when they were allowed only one choice. Nor do we know how many people would have chosen a multiracial identity in 1990 if they had been given that option.

Other changes

In the 2000 census, the category "American Indian or Alaska Native" replaces the "American Indian, Eskimo or Aleut" category used in 1990. Two separate categories, Asian and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, replace the single Asian and Pacific Islander category used in 1990.

Grouping races

With all the various combinations of single and multiple races, there are 63 possible racial identifications in the 2000 census. Most users will want to combine some of these categories. Many census reports will collapse all the 57 combinations of two or more races into a category called "Two or More Races," giving seven mutually exclusive categories: American Indian and Alaska Native alone, Asian alone, Black or African American alone, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone, Some Other Race alone, White alone, and Two or more races. Not all agencies plan to follow this procedure for grouping races, however.

Spanish/ Hispanic/Latino

In the 2000 census, as in earlier censuses, Hispanic or Latino identity is considered an ethnic rather than racial category. Latinos may be any race or combination of races. The overlap of race and ethnicity frequently causes confusion for people who are trying to use census data to find out the total "minority" population of an area. If you are using census data, the easiest way to calculate the total minority population is to subtract the white nonhispanic population from the total population. The Latino population should not be added to the black, Asian, American Indian, Hawaiian Native, other races and multiple races population to get a minority count, because this will cause some Latinos to be double-counted.

Comparability with other sources

By 2003, all Federal agencies will be required to produce data conforming to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget guidelines, including the option of multiple race identification. At the present time, however, most agencies have not yet made the required changes in racial classifications. In addition, data from state and local governments and from private sources are not required to follow the Office of Management and Budget rules. Data users who are trying to combine racial and ethnic data from different sources should be aware of the many different classifications currently in use.

Hmong and Somali populations

Many people want information about the Hmong, Somali, Cambodian, Laotian and other populations of special interest in Minnesota. Unfortunately, data for many of these groups will not be available until the middle of 2001 or even later.

The first 2000 census race data that will be available, the redistricting data, will be released at the end of March, 2001. This will have the total Asian population but will not have information on individual nationality groups. Data for Asian nationality groups will be published in the summer of 2001. Six Asian groups- Asian Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino and Vietnamese - appeared as check-offs on the census form, but other Asian categories such as Hmong and Cambodian had to be written in.

Somalis will be identified mostly by data on country of birth or ancestry. These questions were asked only on the long form, and long form data will not be available until 2002 or later. The same is true of Ethiopians, Nigerians, Bosnians, and other immigrant groups.


The 2000 census will provide a vast amount of data on the ethnic and racial composition of the population. Users should be aware that this information will not be comparable to data from earlier censuses and may not be comparable to other sources of information.

Additional sources

To view a sample of the 2000 census questionnaire, including the question on race, see

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